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Social Media Bosses Now Carrying Marketing Clout

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On: Mon, Mar 28, 2011 at 2:33PM | By: Tim Healey

Social Media Bosses Now Carrying Marketing Clout

Normally, when a CEO or other executive leaves an automaker, it's news outside of the relatively cloistered community of automotive journalists and industry observers. Now, when someone in charge of a company's social-media approach makes a career change, there's almost the same amount of coverage.

For example, Christopher Barger spent four years at GM, helping that company develop its social-media strategy.

Now he's gone, having moved onto a position with Voce Communications.

Barger ran GM's social-media efforts, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as the company's blogs. Before he went to GM, he ran similar efforts at IBM.

This may not seem important, but social-media managers are gaining more and more influence in the marketing sphere.

The rise in importance is not surprising given how much social media is influencing current advertising and marketing trends. Not only is social media another venue for automakers to explore with their advertising efforts, but the use of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter can help keep buyers engaged with a given brand.

For GM, social media is especially important. Before the Great Recession, the company was struggling, and social media was a way to engage younger buyers who had counted GM's car out due to perceptions of poor quality or outdated design. During GM's slide into bankruptcy and its government-assisted re-emergence, the company saw social media as a way to put out positive messages about the company during a controversial and turbulent time for GM. And with the company continuing to recover from that difficult time, becoming a public-traded company once again, and continuing to launch new products, engaging consumers through social media will remain important.

That's why Barger's departure is news. It doesn't matter whether one thinks he did a good or bad job at GM. What matters is that social-media managers at large automakers are going to be increasingly in the spotlight as automakers focus more and more on social media as a way to build customer loyalty (and, eventually, as a way to move more iron). Ford used Facebook to launch the 2011 Explorer, and GM has followed the lead of Ford's "Fiesta Movement" marketing effort with its "Cruzerati" campaign.

Those who enjoying watching the changes in the white-collar ranks at automotive companies now have one more category to keep an eye on: Social-media Manager.


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